Art For Indigenous Survival

Return To Turtle Mountain, North Dakota
April 2001

After flying from Raleigh Durham to Minneapolis and Minot, we rented a car and drove the last four hours to Turtle Mountain, Belcourt, and St. Ann's. We settled in, once again, with the Benedictine Sisters at Queen of Peace Monastery.We began with evening sessions, making bluebirds. Two old friends from '96 joined us, Freya and Verna. Several quilters (Theresa, Stella, Shirley, Cecile, Earnestine, Elaine and Grace) and two of the area's art teachers (Kathy with her daughter Marisa and Terrance) became part of our industrious crew. Freya brought in her buddy, Stephanie and although Jenny Schindler had passed away, her daughter Sharon and granddaughter Tresa worked with us until the babies called them away. After the Bluebirds, we moved on to the Loons, Yellow Ladies Slippers and Prairie Roses. From there we went on to lifesize Buffalo Heads during which Freya regaled us with stories of growing up in an Icelandic Fish Factory.

Thresa and Verna showed off their many quilts:

And Shirley, Kathy, Marisa and Terence brought in their art work to show us. Theresa introduced us to her son, Bennett Brien the artist who welded together rebar to make the Horse and Buffalo on the Capital grounds in Bismark. After a weekend journey to the North Dakota Badlands, Irma and I stopped in Bismark to photograph his work. It was truly astounding that such a simple medium could become so lovely.

We concluded our work during the last week with 15 Bluebirds, 9 Loons, 12 Yellow Ladies Slippers, 11 Prairie Roses and 7 Buffalo Heads. We gathered for a group picture and a fabulous feast to celebrate our accomplishments.